Bishop Thomas McMahon on Same Sex Marriage

This weekend Bishop Thomas' Pastoral statement on the Same Sex Couples Marriage Bill was read out in all Brentwood parishes. Here is the contents:

As you will be aware, lat week saw the publication of the same sex marriage Bill.

There is no doubt that every national government is at liberty to legislate on how marriage is celebrated in a particular country and as to its legal consequences there. However, no government anywhere has the right to re-define or change the essential nature of marriage itself. This is because marriage both comes from God, as revealed through the Scriptures, and is equally a fundamental part of universal natural law.

We have all heard that exemptions are being promised for religious bodies unable to accept this proposed change in the Law. But there are serious questions as to how effective these exemptions would be in the long term since they could be challenged in the Courts or indeed changed by Parliament itself in the future. As a result, there is genuine doubt as to whether there will actually be freedom of conscience and of teaching for all those—of any religious creed or none—who are unable to accept this arbitrary re-interpretation of the married state. Above all, it is of real concern that a change of this magnitude is being introduced in such unnecessary hast and, indeed with no electoral mandate.

For all these reasons, I would urge you—if you have not already done so—to fill in the postcard prepared by the Bishops' Conference and to send it immediately to your local MP. Furthermore, it is important that we should all deepen our knowledge as to the understanding of marriage and of the issues now involved. And so I would very much encourage you to attend the sessions which we have organised for the diocese and which are being held in seven different venues. More details have been sent to your Parish Priest.

Whilst responding to this serious situation—which is certainly not of the Church's making—it is crucial not to lose sight of the overall needs of persons of a same-sex attraction, of the Church's warm and committed pastoral care to them and their families, as well as our dedicated and on-going responsibility and duty towards them.

In the meantime, I would earnestly ask you to keep very much in your prayers those who, on behalf of both Church and state, are engaged in addressing the important questions raised by this Bill as well as very much remembering those who will be affected by it.

+Thomas McMahon
Bishop of Brentwood

Bishop Thomas McMahon has collaborated with Stephen Cottrell, on a letter to be sent to all MPs in the dioceses regarding the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill. You can read more on the diocesan website.

I would be very interested in any comments on this!


  1. I applaud the overall message of +McMahon's letter, but would question a couple of points.

    One is that the concern about haste and lack of electoral mandate is 'above all' concerning. No amount of time or consultation would make this proposal any more acceptable in the light of Natural or Divine Law. I really think that the point he makes here is a political point best made by politicians as a tactic; the bishop, in my opinion, risks implying that with a democratic mandate and due process and consideration, this change would be acceptable. The reason we oppose this change is because it is wrong.

    The second debatable point is that this serious situation 'is certainly not of the Church's making.' In the immediate sense, he is right; but taking a longer view, the Church's failure, in England and Wales, fully to accept and joyfully to proclaim Humanae Vitae, to stand up for the integrity of marriage by consistent and clear teaching on its permanence and the evil of divorce, to form clergy and laity properly in those areas, and also the lamentable sins of a small number of priests, have all contributed to this serious situation.

    Domine, miserere nobis.
    Sancta Maria purissima, ora pro nobis.

  2. What Ben said, but without the applause at the beginning. In this context, Im not worried so much about the result of today's vote in Parliament, or the result of any future vote, but about the answer to the question: "Were Catholics well led in their opposition to this unnatural Bill?"

  3. Hi Mark:
    Brentwood: We have a problem...

    a] 'Marriage' under English Law is about to ultimately lose all its criteria,conditionals and pre-requisites for existing - we're not merely referring to complementarity or being able to conceive or raise children - we're talking about the basic heretofore presumptive aspects of marriage - cohabitation, sexual intimacy, sexual fidelity, spousal interaction at any time before or after the marriage ceremony.

    b] The Church is automatically going to be forced to separate itself from performing the civil aspects of marriage in that it cannot perform them universally - and the civil vows - having no longer any meaning [or any provisional presumptive 'nothing stated to the contrary' meaning] - are untenable. Therefore we will be in a split marriage paradigm like many other countries where catholics undergo a civic and a sacramental ceremony.

    c] BUT - we have a problem in that Maria Miller's office's provisional legislation DOES NOT ALLOW any presumptive conformity with what the Church automatically expects within marriage itself - rather than remaining silent on certain awkward aspects - the new legislation defiantly eliminates.

    This would mean that any baptised non-catholics who would have heretofore had validated marriages by going through the civil process - will now be living in sin.

    There is also the consideration that any provision or benefit from the civil marriage will also allowed for those who will be recognised as married by the state but not by the Church
    - now previously this wasn't an issue because:
    i] those under the auspices of Church care - i.e. [baptised non-Catholic] were married by going through the civic ceremony
    ii] those who were civically divorced and remarried might be living in sin but they were nevertheless married [even though to someone else] there was no inherent or intrinsic unjstness in the marriage law itself...

    But now there is - this is potentially an intrinsically unjust law - and if the CDF say it is - and maintain their revious directives - we will be forbidden from conspiring with that law...Catholics would be spcifically forbidden from undergoing a civil marriage because it would be either formal/proximate material co-operation with an intrinsically unjust law. [prohibited by Evangelium Vitae 73 & 74 & the CDF's considerations] It could lead to a situation where Catholic marry in a Church but aren't legally married because State marriage is seen as sinful.

    d] BUT we have a worse problem. Neil Addison has just said on Protect the Pope blog that under the 1949 Act in section 75 it is a criminal offence to undergo a religious marriage ceremony without a corresponding [or combined] civil ceremony to validate its recognition by the state.

    e] This might sound crazy - but technically yesterday's vote might have automatically banned Catholics from getting married in this country in any way at all.

    Of course it won't - our crowd will equivocate, accommodate, mitigate and obfuscate any difficulties and technicalities away and a diplomatic vatican will oblige...

    BUT - it could have been different if we actually lived by our principles and consciences

    Now can you imagine if we had a St Laurence, or St Ambrose, or a Borromeo or Bellarmine in charge?

    We all know we can't beat this system - the SSM crowd have won - they have every leading power and influence on their side.
    If the national Church turned round tomorrow and Cancelled all Catholic church marriages and told all Catholics that there was a universal ban on marriage in England and Wales due to this legislation which said marriage wasn't just not about kids anymore - it actually said loving commitment and fidelity was optional...

    could we possibly Break the system we could never beat?

  4. The vote for Same Sex marriage is won and there is cheering among the chattering classes and homosexuals rejoice that they've finally crossed that last equality rubicon and been given 'marriage'...

    [They think they have - but they haven't - they've been given the name marriage and marriage has been abolished - marriage NO LONGER EVEN MEANS an exclusive committed loving domestic relationship - irrespective of anything to do with children]

    Yes marriage is being abolished - it will no longer contain any requirement for:

    a] Recognition/acknowledgement or even knowledge of [or even expressing a desire to know] a marital partner

    b] Love - how many MPs and activists have said this is all about public expression of love & commitment? It's not in the legislation.

    c] Fidelity [remember the only sexually adulterous act in an SSM is a heterosexual one - so there's an awkward silence re bisexuality and this legislation - and equality laws will mean there will ultimately be no such thing as a legal concept of adultery]

    d] Co-habitation [there is no necessity to exchange a word or an instant of time with one's spouse outside the ceremony - let alone a bodily fluid or a postcode]

    In other words marriage is destined to become...NOTHING!!!

    But a 'nothing' that will have an overwhelming secularising power to eliminate Religion from the public sphere.

    ...for many to lose their roles, their public positions. their employment, their livelihoods, or ultimately their freedom [possibly even the opportunity to become a family?]

    ...and there's a tumult of wailing and bemoaning and handwringing and rending of garments and gnashing of teeth...

    ...and Our Commentators and Media-experts and Quangocrats make every attempt to rewrite history and congratulate themselves amid group-hugs and patting each other on the back for 'battles well fought'...

    ...and declare that despite their unswerving diligence and efforts and devotion to the cause... was always going to be a battle that was impossible to win...

    Remember this:

    It's not true

    We could have won this - we could have - we just didn't - and there are many reasons why we didn't.

    So please:

    Don't believe the lie:

    We could have saved marriage - and we failed.


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